Demystifying the Making of Stardust Odyssey

by September 17, 2020 0 comments

3D Printing

The Guinness World record 3D motion film used Robotics and 3D printing for paying homage to David Bowie.

The real experience of watching a movie is felt on the big screen. Nothing can beat the excitement when our favourite actors and actresses perform on the TV screens or any OTT platform. But, as technology has invaded almost every sector, we are presented with more options where Artificial Intelligence is deployed.

Imagine a miniature film studio, where your favourite actor is the size of a finger, and performing in front of you. The thought seems impossible, but with the help of machine learning and robotics, this task is achievable. Stardust Odyssey is a movie, which deployed innovative ideas using robotics and 3D printing, by positioning the micro figurines in a Scanning Electronic Microscope (SEM). The film which was designed for paying homage to actor David Bowie, won the Guinness World Record, for the smallest 3D stop-motion animation character in the world.

Just like Stardust Odyssey, two other 3D motion movies, A Boy and His Atom, a film produced by IBM, and Dot,  a movie produced by Nokia are also entitled with the Guinness Book of World Record.



The movie aimed to project the capabilities of robotics and 3D printing. This 3D motion film utilized 3D figurines having a maximum 300micro meter height by printing them with a two-photon 3D printer, with a resolution of about 1 micrometre. The micro figurines were metalized so that they could be visible in the SEM.


Costume Designer of the Robotic Character

For sculpting the metallic metal for micro fingurines, two-photon lithography was used that enabled the production of complex 3D structures with submillimeter dimensions and submicrometer details. By creating this, the researchers were able to explore the phenomenon at the microscopic scale in multiple fields such as surface texturing, replication of bio-inspired structures, micro-robotics, molecular biology and microfluidic application. With the help of resolution and geometrical versatility, the technique for printing complex geometrical parts at the micron level became standard. With the help of incorporating a conductive material, the figurine with the metallic coating was post-processed.

Next, to counter the challenge of preventing any damage to the figurine due to any contact with the lens, or movement of the liquid resin induced by the lens, the microscopic lens was dipped into a liquid drop of photo-sensible resin deposited on a quartz substrate.

Another challenge that was faced after the printing was completed, involved removal of uncured resin without damaging the figurines. For this, figurines were first immersed in a developer solvent, and then into iso-propanol, while using a smooth cleaning process, so that the figurines do not get deformed. The adhesion surface between the shoe and the substrate was also analyzed, and increased by removing the part of the heel or the sole.


Constructing the make-up artist

After the 3D printing, the figurines were presented to a transparent photoresist deposited on glass slides. Therefore diffuse the two drawbacks of the resin which include, the insulation and transparency of photoresist, and to produce optical and SEM challenges, the figurines were coated with the layer of a metal, which was thin enough to keep the metal in metal phase to prevent deforming the details of the figurine.

In Stardust Odyssey, the tiny animated David Bowie wore chromium clothes which were designed using Physical Vapor Deposition. The process includes initially depositing a thin layer of chromium over the figurines, to allow all the 3D printing details while offering total coverage to achieve the evacuation of electronic charges during the imaging phases under an electron microscope.


Building A Robotic Camera Operator     

In any conventional movie, the camera revolves around the actors. However, in Stardust Odyssey, the camera was static with the figurines revolving around the camera, which resulted in a challenge of having the figures larger than the camera. In order to offset this problem, the researchers used two precision microbots, so that figurines can be placed in the right position and a Smart Act GmbH robot, for introducing the star in the scene.


Tribute to David Bowie

Stardust Odyssey was a way through which Tino Pinsard and Michael Gauthier paid homage to David Bowie. Tino Pinsard was the director of Stardust Odyssey and used scientific innovation while directing the movie. It was made in the year 2016. Stardust Odyssey received Guinness World Record in the year 2019.

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